Nintendo Switch Console Review
March 3rd is just around the corner, and hundreds of thousands of Nintendo fans will gleefully tear into their new Nintendo Switch units and play whatever games they decide to get at launch. Console launches are somewhat frequent if you average them out – with so many major and minor companies creating new systems – but they are still always special. Nintendo launches stand out to me because they are always doing something a bit different, making their releases unique. We’ve had the Switch for just over a week now, and overall, we are incredibly impressed!
Out of the Box
We won’t spend a ton of time talking about the specifications of the console, as this information is easily accessible on Nintendo’s website. However, we will at least detail what comes in the box, so you can make the right decisions on launch day for extra items you might want to buy.
- 1 Nintendo Switch Screen
- 2 Joy-Con controllers – a left and a right.
- 1 Nintendo Switch dock
- 1 Power cable
- 1 HDMI Cable
- 1 Joy-Con grip
- 2 Joy-Con wrist straps
One major omission when you compare the Nintendo Switch launch to other recent Nintendo launches is the lack of a pack-in-title to show off the new capabilities of the system. Although we haven’t reviewed this game in its entirety yet, we strongly feel at GamesReviews that 1-2-Switch would have been the perfect pack in title to show off some of the better features of the Nintendo Switch, starting with the Joy-Con controllers.
Nintendo has created the Joy-Con controllers to be versatile, and I think they have done an excellent job. Each Joy-Con has all the buttons to be a standalone controller – demoed over the last number of months mainly in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – but when put together, they make a perfect controller for more complicated titles, like the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Outside of using the Joy-Cons as standalone controllers for 1-2-Switch – in which you generally are not using them as a traditional horizontal controller – we haven’t had a ton of time to test it out over long periods of time. Until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launches later this Spring, we won’t be able to comment on the comfort of each Joy-Con when used solo. To be honest, even with the wrist straps, I’m fairly skeptical.
One of the more interesting features of controllers is the HD Rumble. This feature is showcased really well in 1-2-Switch – which adds to the confusion of it not being a pack in – but I’m not sure how it will translate to other games. I assume Nintendo has a plan for the HD Rumble in the future. While the rumble features are great in Breath of the Wild, I’m not 100% sure it’s any better or game changing than the rumble in anyone else’s controllers.
Packed in with everything are two wrist straps for the Joy-Con controllers. Like the straps on the original Wiimotes, these are meant to keep the Joy-Con within reach of your hand, and to limit the possibility of you actually throwing it. Since the Joy-Con controllers are so light on their own, the strap actually adds some stability when playing with it horizontally, a feature that might not have been intended, but is welcome none-the-less.
The Nintendo Switch screen is a bit thicker and tad smaller than an iPad mini, but when you consider that it stores all the hardware for the system, it is actually really impressive. The 720p screen, when coupled with the Joy-Con controllers that easily slide onto either side of it, is actually not as hefty as I would have thought. It is perhaps a bit heavier than the Wii U gamepad, but it feels less bulky and more user friendly.
The user interface – both in TV mode and when on the go – is easy to use and understand, and launches with a façade of elegance. While I always felt the Wii U and 3DS interfaces were very kid friendly and focused, the Switch interface reminds me of the PS4. It’s not cluttered like the Xbox One, but puts all the important buttons right at your fingertips.
How to Use the Switch, What We Liked Best
It is no secret that the Nintendo Switch is the ultimate hybrid console, bridging the gap between home console and handheld devices. The Nintendo Switch can be used in a number of ways: Handheld Mode, TV Mode, and Tabletop Mode.
This is why you buy a Nintendo Switch. Let’s face it, if you are not a huge Nintendo fan but want the ultimate gaming experience, you probably already own one of the other two competitors consoles. If you want something that doesn’t tie you to your couch, but can still play outstanding games that look great, the Nintendo Switch and it’s ability to produce great experiences on the go is the console for you.
For the first couple hours of play, I left my Nintendo Switch in TV Mode (more on this below) and began playing 1-2-Switch and Breath of the Wild. I had fun, but quickly questioned whether I was having $399.99 worth of fun ($299.99 USD). I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sold. As a standalone home console, I think the Nintendo Switch is a bit over priced, especially when you take into consideration the cost of the Switch peripherals – $89.99 CAD for the Pro Controller and $99.99 CAD for a set of Joy-Cons.
Once I took the unit off the dock and took it to the doctors office, shopping with my wife, and other places, I quickly changed my tune from “not worth it” to “so very worth it!” The ability to go from playing Zelda on your couch to playing Zelda on the bus, to playing Zelda at the doctors office is phenomenal, and without exaggerating too much, mind blowing. We aren’t talking about the lower quality and generally less evolved gameplay experiences, but rather console quality gaming on the go.
Table Top Mode
I haven’t had as much time in table top mode as I would have liked, but it does seem to function like all the commercials and events have advertised. Although I still have concerns over the quality of the kickstand located on the back of the system, I’ve been assured by Nintendo of Canada that should the kickstand break off, it can easily be reattached by clipping it back into place.
In table top mode, gamers can use the Joy-Con controllers or the Pro Controller, whichever they prefer. The Joy-Cons make a bit more sense because they can be packed up in compact carrying cases – a few of which we have reviewed already – but should you take the Nintendo Switch on a longer trip where a Pro Controller makes sense, it connects to the system as easily as the Joy-Cons.
This is the traditional way to play your home console, docking your unit and having the video and audio pushed to your TV. What has impressed me the most is that Nintendo was actually 100% honest with how you transition from TV mode to handheld mode. Nintendo isn’t a dishonest company, but so often, console claims are often over promised. This is seamless, with only a second delay between having the display on your TV, and having it on the device when dislodged from the base. It’s truly remarkable and a reason why the Nintendo Switch should sell well.
A little bit missing…
It’s really hard to do a full review of the Nintendo Switch when so many features that we know are coming, will be lacking at launch. The biggest and most controversial of exclusion is the Nintendo Virtual Console. Ever since the Wii, the Virtual Console has been one of Nintendo’s biggest advantages over its competitors. Sure, there are lots of great games available on the Xbox and Playstation, but neither of these companies – although I could hear an argument for Playstation – have the history of Nintendo. Having the ability to play old NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 – not to mention the Gameboy titles – has been a wonderful treat, and it’s too bad that feature, which would be phenomenal in hand held mode when on the go, will be missing.
Another notable omission is the lack of key apps at launch, such as Netflix. Many people who owned only a Wii U, used that system as their home Netflix machine. Many of those same people sold or traded in their Wii U systems to purchase a Nintendo Switch. For the time being, it seems as if they are out of luck. Nintendo announced that there would be no Netflix application at launch, with no official release date to announce.
Another thing I would argue is missing, as opposed to ‘just not right’, is the small internal storage. At most, consumers will only be able to store a handful of games on the 32 GB system – of which only 25 GB is actually available to the player – and therefore, if you want to go digital with your Nintendo Switch, you’ll need to invest in a micro SD card. While these cards can often be found for a decent price, it’s still extra money you will need to spend on top of your already expensive console purchase.
Other applications – like a simple activity tracker – are also absent at lunch; those playing Breath of the Wild will be particularly frustrated as their is no in game clock to measure your play time, and you won’t be able to rely on the systems activity tracker either.
…And a Few Things Just not Right
The Nintendo Switch has a number of drawbacks. We alluded to the flimsy kickstand earlier in our review, but that is only one of many questionable design decisions. Lack of Bluetooth support for headsets, a lack of a headset jack on the grips and Pro Controller, and the charging port on the bottom of the screen – understandable for the dock, but completely worthless if you want to charge in tabletop mode – are a number of things that could easily stop someone from purchasing a Switch at launch.
There is also the docking station problem. Because of how you will need to interact with the dock, it would have made sense for Nintendo to provide options for how it could be store in your entertainment unit. For example, there should have been functionality to allow fans to lay their dock down, which would mean inserting and pulling your Nintendo Switch from the front, as opposed to from the top.
Bring Back Couch Multiplayer
Nintendo has long been the champion of local multiplayer. As other companies have let that slip to the side over the years, Nintendo continues to release titles with a focus on friends and family play. The Nintendo Switch takes that concept to a whole new level, allowing up to 8 players to partake in multiplayer action, or 4 players…on the go?
You’ve seen the video: 4 guys are playing basketball in a park, before stopping to bust out a Nintendo Switch to play a little NBA 2K17. This is what I’m most excited for. Long trips, waiting for food at a restaurant, or any other scenario you can think of, would easily be a non-issue if I knew I could play a few laps of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with those around me. With the Nintendo Switch, I can make that happen.
On top of the multiplayer on one screen, people with multiple Switch units can link them up locally and play a host of multiplayer titles, all without the need for an Internet connection.
System Launch Titles and First Year Outlook
It would be fair to say the Nintendo Switch launch lineup is fairly weak, with only a handful of well known games coming to the system on March 3rd. The ‘big boys’ from Nintendo – 1-2-Switch, Breath of the Wild, and Snipperclips – are sure to peak your interest, but there is also a number of third party titles that will be equally as enjoyable. Within the first few months, we will have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Yooka-Laylee, LEGO City Undercover, and many more, including a huge slate of indie titles.
The launch lineup was an initial concern, but after seeing what the first few months had in store, I think everything is fairly OK. The argument that there isn’t enough at Launch to justify the purchase seems like a misnomer to me: if you don’t plan on playing Breath of the Wild you probably are not buying the system, and if you are planning on getting that specific game, what else would you need for the first month?
It’s Not Final, But the Nintendo Switch at Launch Gets A…
I think to score a console once is incredibly unfair, and so we will definitely come back to this review as more features roll out. Consider this score to be our ‘Launch Day’ score. We don’t hate the Nintendo Switch; to be honest, it’s one of my favorite Nintendo systems ever. However, with the lack of key features and apps that won’t be ready for launch, I can’t give this system the score I really want to. For now, we are giving the Nintendo Switch a 8.0/10.
Are you getting one on launch day? What do you think?